DMLPBRE Interview: Benjanun Sriduangkaew

It’s about to get cold in here…

Dead Machines Live People Book Release Extravaganza presents:

Author Benjanun Sriduangkaew!

We’ve got five awesome questions for Benjanun, so let’s get started!

1. Recently, I listened to Fade to Gold read on Pseudopod. It was eerie and beautiful and gave me all the best chills. While dodging spoilers the story includes a pretty frightening monster, the krause (I hope I got the spelling right.) Is that your favorite South East Asian monster? If not, what is?

I have more of a favorite folklore. The most memorable for me is Mae Nak, the story of a woman who dies in childbirth and whose ghost comes back to stay with her husband. It’s supposed to be a story about wifely virtue and faithful love. (I subverted it elsewhere, making it–as one does–a lesbian love story instead, where Nak runs away with a nak woman instead. You’d probably hear of nak as naga.) The krasue interested me because they’re usually a feminized figure, though it’s not really a favorite. Otherwise I’m really into certain Chinese demons, but again it’s a matter of very specific demons from Fengshen Yanyi or what have you. I don’t tend to like fantasy creatures as a category–I don’t like every fox demon, I like Daji; I don’t like every snake demon, I like the ones from The Legend of the White Snake; I don’t like every ghost woman, I like Mae Nak. This might have something to do with the way these stories are told, I expect, where such figures are deeply individualized rather than conformist.

2. A craft question next: You have a collection of short stories spread across a lot of publications that are part of an interconnected universe. I think that’s so cool! You call it The Hegemony. Do you let editors know that the stories are part of something bigger?

No, I don’t specifically let editors know, though they do realize after I’ve sent them more than one story in a single universe (a few read me beyond what I submit to them, I think). I like interconnected short stories a lot; short stories are like movies, novels are like TV shows, if that makes sense. Each short story has to be very self-contained.

3. Your upcoming book Winterglass is a post colonial South East Asian fantasy drawn a bit from the Snow Queen fairy-tail. (Which is good, because that story needs a better shake up than Disney could do. 😀) You mention there is a big dog. Can you describe the big dog and tell us a little bit about her part in the story without giving anything away you don’t want to?

Hah, the big dog is a walk-on part. It’s a husky, with fur in ‘deep sienna gradating to a belly like pale fire’ and ‘eyes like a clear sky’ that protagonist Nuawa comments look very beautiful on a dog, but look very odd on an ‘occidental’. She takes it for a walk and watches it wrestle with some bhikkuni. She is not a very fluffy person and doesn’t keep pets herself, it’s just that she admires the absoluteness of animals and their sense of self, their instincts and inherited knowledge which to her seem much superior to humans’ muddy, anxiety-ridden brains. (Of course we know animals can develop anxiety, but Nuawa has a somewhat romanticized view, including of wolves she used to hunt when she was younger. She’s a certain kind of person.)

4. In all of fiction and history and media, who is your favorite gynephilic couple? (I think I got that right. Don’t worry, people can google it themselves.)

Ooh that’s a tough one. It’s hard to think of any that hasn’t been troubled by problems of portrayal (or just get killed off, sometimes horribly). I like Madoka and Homura from Puella Magi Magica Madoka a lot, but that’s never really been ‘made canon’–Homura’s feelings are confirmed romantic, but whether Madoka returns them is anyone’s guess, so calling them a couple is a stretch. Still, both are alive–more or less, they’re conceptual divine/demonic entities now–and there’s a lot to be said about the third movie, Rebellion Story, being their troubled love story. But then I also write my share of troubled love stories (as anyone who plans to read Winterglass may find out) so maybe it’s not odd that I gravitate to viewing them. My hard pass is lesbian tragedy used as titillation.

(Mena: For more on the problems with using gay stories for titilation, you wanna google the Bury Your Gays trope and then stop doing that.)

5. In all of fiction and media, what’s or who is your favorite robot? 😀

I have a soft spot for the tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. They’re four-legged walker tanks that are a bit like pets, speak disconcertingly like children, and are the one fluffy thing in the series. The part where they sacrifice themselves for Section 9 (destroying the server in orbit that hosts their AIs) while singing is still memorable to me, 12 years later.

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You can find more of Benjanun’s thoughts and works at her website. Including a damn fine article on finding gay women in fiction!

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